Creative and wacky Aggie builds mobile app business

By Rylan Barnes ’04

Since I graduated in December 2005, the value of my Texas A&M education has grown. Without it, I wouldn’t have won Google’s 2008 Android Developer Challenge — a $275,000 cash prize — for my application ShopSavvy. It uses a cell-phone camera to scan product barcodes to find the best prices on the Internet and at local stores.

Rylan Barnes '04

Rylan Barnes '04

Looking back on my computer engineering coursework, perhaps the most critical skill professors helped me develop was learning to teach myself. Because technology changes so quickly, it’s something I do every day.

I always wanted to build things, and even during free time at A&M, I was always on my computer building something new.

Early A&M venture

One of those ventures was, which helped Aggies save money on textbooks by buying and selling directly with each other.

From that project, I learned design patterns, best practices and database design fundamentals. The experience gave me a great head start in several classes and also got me into a bit of trouble. I hosted the site on a friend’s server in a closet at Walton Hall. Students aren’t supposed to run businesses from campus, so I had to explain to administrators that I wasn’t making money.

Chris Pick ’99, who had never met me, heard about the server hassle and offered to host the Web site off-campus for free, a nice favor. The site was live until I finished my degree.

(Incidentally, I never made a dime off that Web site. So let me offer a bit of advice: Technology developers interested in starting businesses should study entrepreneurship. Running a business requires skills beyond technology expertise.)

Big in Japan

And I am an entrepreneur: In 2008 I co-founded the Dallas company Big in Japan. We develop mobile applications for platforms such as the iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

The best part of my career is working at a place that encourages creativity and a little wackiness. How else can I explain the huge Incredible Hulk sculpture in our office?

In short, I get paid to do what I love. I see myself building until I die. It was born in me, but Texas A&M gave me the tools to do it right.

To learn how you can support continued academic excellence in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M, contact Jay Roberts ’05 at (800) 392-3310.

This article first appeared in the fall 2009 issue of Spirit magazine. Read the rest of this issue of the magazine.